July 14th, 2024

Meli earns 8th degree black belt

By Lethbridge Herald on June 18, 2024.

Kevin Doherty PHOTO Joe Meli poses with his 8th degree black belt certificate.

By Justin Seward

Lethbridge Herald

Local Joe Meli is still making his mark in the judoka world at the age of 68.

For his achievements and contributions to judo, Meli was awarded an 8th degree black belt by Judo Canada recently at the grading in  Montreal.

Meli has been the highest ranked in the province since the loss of his sensi,  Yosh Senda, who was the first to get his 9th degree black belt in Canada.

Meli remembered every time he was promoted to a different judo belt, he was always excited.

“This is kind of just as much,” said Meli.

“It’s later on life and it’s different …  competing and getting elevated then doing this, and just being involved in judo, and contributing and that sort of thing with the grading committees and technical committee and all that  sort of thing that I did.”

Meli has been a coach, a Judo Alberta  member and held the capacity as Judo Canada Technical Committee vice president for eight years throughout the years in the sport.

“Just to stay involved as long as I can,” said Meli, on his goal.

“I’m kind of tailoring off a little bit more each year it seems like. But I just kind of got a breath of fresh air now because we changed the way we’re grading athletes. Now like in Alberta, we can elevate students to as high as fifth dan (a fifth grade black belt) …  and then once they’re six and higher it goes to the national grading committee. So I’m still involved (with) that but now they’ve changed it and it’s kind of like you have to be on the mat a little bit more asking the students to demonstrate and do things.”

The connections have been important to Meli.

“I’m still very connected to quite a few of those kids that went on the longest and some are still involved in judo and their kids are doing judo,” he said.

He achieved a black belt while competing at 16 years old and was the youngest to conquer the feat at the time.

He was a four-time Olympian, an 11-time Canadian champion, a five-time PanAmerican medalist and a Commonwealth silver medalist.

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